Film Review: ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Is a Joyous but Unnecessarily Convoluted Return for the Superheroine
Fast forward to the 1980s as Wonder Woman’s next big-screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah.
Director: Patty Jenkins
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal
Country: United States
Runtime: 151 minutes
2017’s Wonder Woman remains a high point amidst the dreariness of DC superhero films. A lot of what made it stood above the rest can be found in its sequel. What separates the superhero from the pack — namely of her compassion and love for life — remains a core part of Wonder Woman 1984’s story. However, rather than expanding and building on all these core elements, a large portion of what is added felt unnecessary and bogged down the overall experience — which is unfortunate given how there are fantastic moments buried throughout.
The sequel centres around a mysterious stone that is able to grant anyone’s deepest desire — for a price. For Diana (Gal Gadot), it mysteriously brought back to life her lover Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). For Diana’s klutzy colleague Barbara (Kristen Wiig), it gave her superpowers to match Wonder Woman’s. For television star Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), it turned him into the wish-granting stone.
It’s a plot that admittedly feels out of place amidst the pantheon of gritty tales and Marvel snark by, ironically, feeling the most comic book-esque, as if it was ripped out of pages from the Golden Age of Comics. Wonder Woman 1984 falters when it attempts to balance between this homage, present throughout the action set pieces, with more grounded themes that feel akin to its contemporaries.
The wish-granting stone serves as a conduit to unearth spectacular character moments, particularly with both the superheroine and the villain. However, not all of its central characters would be afforded the same amount of nuance, with Barbara aka Cheetah having the clear short end of the stick. The stone also brings about huge plot holes that I probably could have ignored if it wasn’t for how the film brings up real-life events and issues.
Don’t get me wrong, such an approach can work ala First Class or even the first Wonder Woman film. But here, the plot feels like it’s trying to do and say too much; Middle-Eastern politics and Cold War tensions are brought up just for the sake of it. Not only might these events fly over audiences’ heads, they unnecessarily pad out a film that already suffers from a plodding pace.
Adding onto the weight is the lack of action sequences that may further alienate the mass audience — and that is not even including a conclusion that may leave the same aftertaste of narrow-mindedness as the celebrity cover of “Imagine” earlier this year. It makes the ending of Rocky 4 seem realistic in comparison.
I would parallel the dissonance I felt from Wonder Woman 1984’s story to the Star Wars prequels if not for the film’s splendid cast. Gal Gadot is still phenomenal in her role, with her electric chemistry with Chris Pine making for a bonafide heartbreaker by the film’s end. Pedro Pascal is spectacular in his role as well with a delightful mix of boisterous charisma and rabid insecurity.
The film may feel uncertain about its overarching message but the character drama remains consistently engaging. Wonder Woman 1984 also does well in differentiating the superheroine from the pack, with compassion being her go-to defuser for any confrontation. While there are only but a few action sequences — perhaps to highlight the superheroine’s pacifist nature — they splendidly showcase Wonder Woman’s unique arsenal.
Wonder Woman 1984 is by no means a bad film; expectations will be high given its predecessor. A shorter runtime and a more concise plot would have been wonderful but what remains is still a solid blockbuster that will satiate just about anyone with its character drama and spectacle.
Wonder Woman 1984 is now screening in theatres islandwide.
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